New Medicare cards start rolling out in April 2018

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is moving forward to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards with the task done by April 2019.

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The program, to better protect member information and reduce risk of identity theft, has been in the works for some time, with the Government Accountability Office in 2013 taking CMS to task for lagging in removing Social Security numbers. Among other advice, GAO at that time suggested that a new technology architecture be built to support shared services that could include a crosswalk to translate the SSN into a new beneficiary identifier.

New Medicare cards will start being mailed in April 2018. The cards will replace the Social Security number with a unique randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new identifier will have 11 digits containing numbers and uppercase letters.

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Healthcare providers and persons on Medicare will have access to a secure web “lookup” tool in case cards are lost. There will be a transition period from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019 during which providers can use either the legacy Social Security number or the MBI to exchange data with CMS.

“After the transition period, CMS will reject claims if the MBI is not used,” the agency cautions. “Once CMS starts mailing out new Medicare cards in April 2018, anyone who is newly enrolled in Medicare will only get an MBI. Therefore, all systems must be ready to begin accepting the MBI by April 2018.”

CMS is developing the lookup tool and other supporting tools and will give updates as they become available.

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